The Senate of Yore Retreats Further into the Distance

Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz has written up the first 2014 Senate projections for Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and it’s not a very positive picture for Democrats (for reasons we’ve been discussing here for months, mostly having to do with landscape and turnout patterns). Most strikingly, Abramowitz’s model shows Republicans making net gains of three seats even if Democrats had a ten-point advantage in the generic congressional ballot.

But it’s Alan’s long-range projection about the composition of the Senate that is perhaps most interesting:

Regardless of which party is in the majority next year, the long-term outlook for the Senate is for a continuation of narrow majorities with party control at stake every two years for the foreseeable future. This is a situation that is likely to encourage more of the intense partisan conflict that has characterized the Senate in recent years. Moreover, the next Senate is almost certain to be even more ideologically polarized than the current Senate. The replacement of several moderate Democrats with conservative Republicans will increase the already wide ideological divide between the parties. This may lead to further erosion of the filibuster rule and other Senate practices that allow the minority party to obstruct, delay or defeat decisions supported by the majority party. For better or worse, the end result of these trends is likely to be the transformation of the Senate into a body that much more closely resembles the House of Representatives.

So the Senate of Yore, whose gradual passing has inspired so many bitter tears in a punditocracy nostalgic for Dixiecrats and liberal Republicans, isn’t coming back any time soon, if ever. And the fight for the Senate will likely continue each cycle until one party or the other finally puts together a broader and more stable voter coalition that can encompass both presidential and midterm electorates.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.